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New Delhi—The bank executive, the book publisher and the social worker had one thing in common: Their hectic lives in the crowded Indian capital had become so chaotic and stressful, they’ve turned to chanting Buddhist mantras in search of calm.
The practice is catching on among India’s well-off urban professionals, growing by word of mouth as a way to relieve stress. Most of those picking up the practice are Hindu, but they say they see no conflict between their religious beliefs and the chanting. Some say it is soothing, others invigorating.
“I feel it just makes me a better human being, more humane,” says Gaurav Saboo, 34, a devout Hindu working at an international bank in New Delhi. “It enables me to understand the suffering of others and reach out to others.”
Buddhism, he says, “is a philosophy, a way of life,” and the chanting has brought a positive energy into his life.
While Buddhism began on the Indian subcontinent around the 5th century BC, it has waned in both India and Nepal while flourishing in different forms in Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and other countries. With its easy rituals and lack of dogma, Buddhism has long drawn supporters from afar. Hollywood celebrities, agnostics, Christians and Jews alike attend Buddhist spiritual retreats.
Archi Sharma, a housewife who took up chanting a year ago, says she was “searching for some meaning” in her life when she heard about Buddhist chanting from friends.
“I felt there was a vacuum in my life,” Sharma said. “The chanting has helped. It stops you thinking about me, myself. It makes one think of others first.”
Sharma, who chants twice a day between household chores and taking care of an ailing relative, said she saw no conflict between her family’s traditional Hindu beliefs and her chanting.
“The chanting is not invasive and runs parallel to what we practice as Hindus,” she said. “It opens a doorway to another stream of happiness into one’s life.”
The practice of repeating a mantra is not exclusive to Buddhism. Many across Hindu-dominated India also include chanting as part of their yoga, and some Christian groups repeat chants.
While Hindu chanting is often associated with religious rituals, Buddhist chanting is seen as less dogmatic, aimed at calming the nerves or feeling a sense of well being, said New Delhi-based sociologist Abhilasha Kumari.
“Hindu chanting is linked to religious ritual,” she said. “Buddhist chanting is a free space where you chant and are not tied down to other aspects of religiosity.”
Many Indians who have picked up chanting have been drawn to sessions organized by Soka Gakkai International, the lay organization of a major Nichiren Buddhist sect whose stronghold is in Japan. The group traces its roots to the chants and teachings of a 13th century Japanese monk named Nichiren.
The group has not been engaged in an active campaign to promote chanting in India, although it claims to have introduced the practice to around 100,000 Indians since setting up in the country in 1986, according to the group’s office in New Delhi.
Practitioners chant individually but many meet monthly. Many say that that apart from easing their own stress, the chanting also makes them understand people around them and working for the happiness of others.
At a recent gathering in a middle class New Delhi neighborhood, participants shucked off their shoes and quietly sat down on thin mattresses in the basement of an apartment building. They faced an ornate wooden altar holding a scroll on which the words they will chant for the next hour are written: “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo,” which refers to the law of cause and effect.
Latecomers seamlessly joined in, blending their chant with the ongoing rhythm. Soon the incantation picked up speed, building to a crescendo and then slowing again while the chanters recovered their breath. Faintly, there was the clicking of wooden beads that the chanters used to help focus their thoughts on the mantra. Every now and then, one of them struck a gong.
“You feel invigorated. It’s a great feeling,” said Ruma Roka, 54, at the end of the chanting session as she and the others moved to another room for discussions over tea. Roka started chanting about 10 years ago as a housewife, and has found it helps her cope with the stress of her job teaching the hearing impaired at the special clinic she runs.
“If I did not chant, if I went back home with all the heaviness of this very challenging work … I would not be able to survive,” Roka said. “I would have a compassion deficit.”
Getting numbers on the recent growth of chanters is difficult, but Indian media has reported on the trend. Many individuals hear about the chanting sessions by word of mouth, and are often simply looking for new ways of stress-busting after trying other traditional methods.
Namrta Bangia, a 32-year-old publishing executive, said she had tried Pranayama, an ancient Indian breathing practice, and the silent Hindu meditation of Vipassana before settling on Buddhist chants. Her family and friends tell her they have noted a change in her.
“I’ve become more positive, more confident, more cheerful,” she said after a recent group session. “I’m a different person. I am not going to get defeated.” (VOA News)
India is known for its pickles, popularly called 'Achaar', even across the world. But who thought about the idea of pickles in the first place? Apparently, the idea of making pickles first came from the ancient civilisation of Mesopotamia, where archaeologists have found evidence of cucumbers being soaked in vinegar. This was done to preserve it, but the practice has spread all over the world today, that pickles mean so much more than just preserved vegetables.
In India, the idea of pickle has nothing to do with preservation, rather pickle is a side dish that adds flavour and taste to almost anything. In Punjab, parathas are served with pickle; in the south, pickle and curd rice is a household favourite, and in Andhra, it is a staple, eaten with everything. The flavour profile of pickles in each state is naturally different, suited to each cuisine's taste. Pickles are soaked in oil and salt for at least a month, mixed with spices and stored all year round. Mango season is often synonymous with pickle season as a majority of Indians love mango pickle. In the coastal cities, pickles are even made out of fish and prawns.
The Indian Achaar Image credit: Photo by Rahat Hossen on Unsplash
In other cultures, the pickling process has more to do with preservation. Cold countries, where temperatures drop to very low levels, pickle their vegetables in brine, vinegar, or salt. Sweden is famous for pickled herring, because fishing all year round is hard with all the snow and ice. The German Sauerkraut, originally composed of rice, cabbage, and wine, is now made using salt instead of wine. This gives it a sour flavour that is characteristic of the beloved German delicacy.
In Korea, kimchi is the national delicacy. It is a pickle that is made from pickled cabbages with a distinct mix of spices. Kimchi is made with various core ingredients, and is gaining popularity these days with the Korean Wave hitting the globe. It is a practice that represents the Korean winters, which are too harsh to grow anything. The Kimchi business is one of the largest in Korea, while the individual family recipes are also well-preserved as it is believed that each is unique in its own way.
The pickles made from dill and vinegar are most famous in America. It was introduced to the Americans by the Jewish immigrants. Dill pickles are best paired with sandwiches.
Keywords: Pickles, Culture, Brine, Vinegar, Preserves
It is impossible to detail the history of bookbinding without understanding the need for it. A very useful, and yet simple invention, spiral coils that hold books together and allow mobile access to the user came about just before WWII, but much before that, paper underwent a massive change in production technique.
Beginning in China, paper was made of bamboo sticks slit open and flattened. In Egypt, papyrus was made from the reeds that grew in the Nile. In India, long, rectangular strips of palm leaves were stitched together to form legible documents. When monasteries were established, scrolls came into being. Parchment paper, or animal hide, also known as vellum, were used to copy out texts periodically to preserve them. Prior to all this, clay tablets were used to record important events, and in some cases, rock edicts were made.
But all this changed with the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg. Paper became the medium by which inscriptions, announcements, and almost everything was made. Once paper became so accessible, printing began in full scale. Newspapers and the Bible were printed every day.
Metal coils were used before the world war Image credit: Photo by Dan Bucko on Unsplash
With wads of paper, something had to be done about keeping them together. Bookbinding began as a booming business. First, the pages were just sewn together. A special sewing machine was invented just for books. When this did not suit all book types, the process of punching and binding began. Holes were punched in books, and they were tied together.
Much later, an adhesive thermoplastic strip became available by which book pages were stuck together. They sold in this format for a long time. Ideas began to flow in for notebooks when people discovered that they could attach pieces of paper together. A machine was invented that drew lines. This made it easier for people who wrote a lot.
After a while, when people got used to having their books a certain way, The Spiral Binding Company opened in 1932, which changed the way bookbinding was done. Books could now be bound by coil and this was not only economical, but also convenient, because pages could easily be turned without breaking the bind. The original spiral bind coil was made of metal, but when supplies were rationed during WWII, they were made from plastic. This trend has remained to the present day, where spiral bound books are preferred to the other kinds of binding except in cases of publishing and official documentation.
Keywords: Spiral Binding, WWII, Paper, Books, Printing
By N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe
To keep the value and quality of what you offer, whether it's a romantic breakfast in bed or a royal wedding gift that will be remembered for years. The concept of gift-giving has taken on a number of shapes in today's society. Devina Singhania, the Founder of 'LE JAHAAN', a local home and decor accessories company, explains how the gifting paradigm has shifted.
Q: What do consumers expect from the gifting business and packaging designers these days?
A: Today's consumers are expecting more minimal sustainable products, designs and mediums. They are now more conscious about how their purchase affects the environment. Considering this shift in consumer buying, it's extremely important for companies to increase their commitments to responsible business practices and design products that are meant to be reused or recycled.
Today's consumers are expecting more minimal sustainable products, designs and mediums. | Photo by Superkitina on Unsplash
Q: The practice of self-gifting is being driven by millennials. What are your thoughts on the subject?
A: I absolutely agree with this. Millennials are so creative and expressive. They are more into personalized products with which they can tell the world something about themselves. We are often hired by millennials to monogram and personalize products for them. They truly believe it's the best way to stand out from the crowd and establish a signature style and we couldn't agree more.
We are often hired by millennials to monogram and personalize products for them. | Photo by freestocks on Unsplash
Q: What impact do colour trends have on gift designs and packaging?
A: 'Le Jahaan' has always been very influenced by colour and trends and we hope to continue this association with colour even while we break through to more sustainable products and collections.
'Le Jahaan' has always been very influenced by colour and trends | Photo by freestocks on Unsplash
Q: What has changed as a result of the pandemic in terms of how we commemorate special occasions and the gift-giving tradition?
A: It's smaller in quantity but more luxurious and thought through.
Q: What giving trends should one keep an eye on in 2022?
A: Consumers, including millennials and members of Generation Z, are especially concerned with sustainability. So, the trend is definitely to go green with eco-friendly.
Q: How does Le Jahaan keep its clients coming back?
A: Our products speak for themselves. We make small batches with exceptional quality with a personal touch.
(Article originally published on IANSlife) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: gifts, le jahaan, festive, millennials, sustainable, gen z, paradigm, gifting